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I loathe to discuss player injuries in an exploitative way, examining how injuries minor and catastrophic can benefit our fantasy squads. But I will, because it’s a critically important part of the our little game.
We learned a couple handfuls of fantasy football lessons yesterday, and we may have discovered a burgeoning workhorse running back, a couple secondaries that could become season-long targets for quarterback streamers, and two more viable signal callers to add to the growing legion of matchup-reliant quarterbacks that made themselves known in Week 3.
Let’s get into it.
- Lorenzo Taliaferro should be the top waiver wire grab in every league this week. There have been plenty of bright fantasy minds touting Taliaferro as the eventual heir to the workhorse role in Gary Kubiak‘s zone blocking scheme — the one that has made fantasy studs out of so many runners over the past decade and a half. Bernard Pierce, who missed yesterday’s game in Cleveland, has shown what he is and it’s not all that good. Justin Forsett is a replacement-level journeyman. Enter Taliaferro, who rumbled for 91 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in Week 3 against a Browns’ front seven that isn’t terrible. Ravens’ coaches have said repeatedly that they want someone to seize the team’s starting gig and run with it. “It was downhill running, he was physical, he was hard to tackle,” head coach John Harbaugh said after Baltimore’s Week 3 win. “That’s an element that is a big plus for an offense.” If you already have Taliaferro as a bench stash, you now have an every-week top-15 runner. Well done.
- Now is the time to package both pieces of the Kansas City backfield and sell. I’m not charging that Knile Davis — who once again looked fantastic in stream rolling the Miami defense — or Jamaal Charles won’t have fantasy usefulness from here on out. I am charging that with Charles unlikely to be at full strength in the coming weeks, and with Davis ascending, there is a clear path to a timeshare here. I don’t believe Davis will simply have a seat on the bench when Charles returns from his ankle injury. If you can, exchange the Chiefs’ backfield for a guy like Le’Veon Bell or a top-end wide receiver from a fantasy team struggling at running back. Week 4 might be too late.
- We learned not to fear the 49ers’ secondary, which has now given up 25 and 19 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in back-to-back weeks. They’re also being shredded by receivers, as wideouts have now caught seven touchdowns against the 49ers through three games. It’s important to adjust our perception of San Francisco as an avoidable team. We shouldn’t be afraid to start out signal callers and pass catchers against Jim Harbaugh‘s crew.
- In Washington and Pittsburgh, we may have found two secondaries to target for the remainder of the 2014 season. Both units lost their best cover guy — DeAngelo Hall in Washington and Ike Taylor in Pittsburgh — and were summarily picked on by opposing signal callers. Washington, in particular, jumps out as a premiere target for those who play matchups in selecting a weekly quarterback. No Washington cornerback is ranked among the top-35 corners in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. With Jay Gruden’s offense primed to put serious points on the board, I see Washington as a bottom-feeding secondary that should be targeted in all formats. I think Hall’s injury and the team’s general defensive struggles make Eli Manning, Rueben Randle, and Victor Cruz great options for Week 4. Russell Wilson and company should decimate that Washington secondary in Week 5.
- I wrote about Owen Daniels as a potential beneficiary of volatility a few months back, and in the wake of what could be a career-ending injury for Dennis Pitta, it seems worth another look. No tight end is more familiar with Kubiak’s scheme and Joe Flacco has always gravitated to Pitta as a safety valve. At worst, Daniels will be an elite tight end streamer, and at best, he’ll become an every-week option. Daniels will have the easiest slate of late-season games of any tight end in the NFL, according to schedule-adjusted fantasy points.
- Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater have officially been added to the growing list of viable fantasy spot starters. I’m particularly excited about Bortles’ prospects, as he’s a giant upgrade over Chad Henne in an offense with plenty of talent. He proved yesterday against Indianapolis that he’s willing to be aggressive — a good trait for a quarterback who will likely face more than a couple big deficits in the coming months. Bortles posted 17.9 fantasy points in one half of work against the Colts, throwing for 223 yards, two scores, and two picks. His schedule leaves a lot to be desired, but Bortles could be a boon for anyone and everyone working the waiver wire this week. It might also be time to invest in one or two Jacksonville runners and receivers as the Bortles tide could very easily lift all boats.